KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 ― Former two-time prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today labelled Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi a “compulsive liar” and that he is ready to meet the latter in court over a defamation suit filed by the Bagan Datuk MP.
In a statement today, Dr Mahathir who is Langkawi MP said that he is also mulling to sue Ahmad Zahid, over remarks which he made several years ago, regarding his Indian ancestry in his identification card.
He also demanded that Ahmad Zahid apologise, or risk being sued.
“I am considering taking legal action for Zahid’s lies that slandered me. I challenge Zahid to show evidence of my identity which disputes the status of my race as a Malay. If he does not apologise and retract the defamation, I will take court action,” he said in a statement.
Dr Mahathir’s lineage had emerged time and again over the years, especially during campaigning for the May 9 general election in 2018. Ahmad Zahid had made glib and derogatory references to Dr Mahathir based on his ancestry.
“I was summoned by Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi for allegedly defaming him in connection with some of his meetings with me when I was the prime minister of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government. It revolves around my statement that he asked me to intervene in the proceedings of the court case he was facing.
“As this will be a court case, I do not intend to comment at length on Zahid’s allegations here. I will meet him in court and have my lawyer’s direction convey my readiness. Actually, I'm tired of Zahid's attitude. The suit was taken only as an attempt to cover up his fraud through the court process.
“This Zahid is a liar. The white men call it a compulsive liar. Last time, during the 14th general election campaign, he issued a statement claiming that my original identity card named me as Mahathir a/l Iskandar Kutty. He alleged that by blue IC with that said name was sent to him by the director-general of the National Registration Department (NRD),” he said.
Dr Mahathir said that the allegation was made by Ahmad Zahid to accuse him of using the Malays for 22 years during his tenure as prime minister, despite his Indian ancestry.
He added that he was waiting for Ahmad Zahid to prove his allegations to the public, but this did not happen, even after the 2018 national polls ended.
Dr Mahathir said that Ahmad Zahid wanted to slander him to display to the masses that the former had purportedly lied about his racial status, and with that, question the former's credibility to lead Umno, other Malay parties and the Malay race as a whole.
“Yes, I do have Indian blood and this, I have stated in my book. I do not deny. However, the fact is that my birth certificate and identity card are Mahathir bin Mohamad. According to the definition in the Malaysian Constitution (Article 160) I am Malay and my struggle is to defend the interests of my race.My parents were born in Malaya before Merdeka and we are all Muslims. Since childhood, my family's speech at home is Malay and the custom we practice is Malay custom.
“Previously I did not like to use the courts even though many slandered me, because I was aware that in political campaigns, there will be those who act outside the boundaries and limits. But this time, I feel the need to act because Zahid's lying attitude is very revolting and cannot be left just like that. It is not only because it has damaged my reputation, but his deception of Umno supporters and other Malays for the sake of him wanting to stay in power is very dangerous.
“I am considering taking legal action for Zahid's lies that defamed me. I challenge Zahid to show evidence of my identity which disputes the status of my race as a Malay. If he does not apologize and retract the defamation, I will take court action,” Dr Mahathir said.
On July 30, 2017, Ahmad Zahid said he was informed by the NRD that Dr Mahathir’s original name was “Mahathir a/l Iskandar Kutty.”
Ahmad Zahid, who was both deputy prime minister and home minister at that time, said this while delivering his keynote at the Kelana Jaya Umno division meeting, according to the Malaysiakini news portal.
“This is why they say ‘Malays easily forget.’ For 22 years, I did not touch on his personal issues. But this is his previous blue IC,” the acting Umno deputy president said while displaying his smartphone to the audience.
“His name was Mahathir son of Iskandar Kutty,” Zahid said, with emphasis on the phrase “son of” that is customarily used by the Indian community here.
Although Zahid did not specifically name Dr Mahathir, he referenced the former prime minister’s catchphrase as well as his 22 years in power.
Last month, Ahmad Zahid filed a defamation suit against Dr Mahathir, in which he demanded an apology and compensation over remarks that he allegedly went to meet Dr Mahathir to discuss his court case prior to the latter’s reappointment as prime minister in 2018.
The suit was filed on April 20 at the Kuala Lumpur High Court. In his statement of claim, Zahid alleged that Dr Mahathir maliciously made untrue, unsubstantiated and defamatory remarks against him.
Zahid was referring to Parti Pejuang Tanah Air chairman Dr Mahathir’s remarks on February 23 at a Pejuang event held at the Perdana Leadership Foundation, Putrajaya in conjunction with the Johor state election, with the remarks featured in a video stretching over 56 minutes on news portal Astro Awani’s YouTube account.
Zahid referred specifically to remarks made by Dr Mahathir in a portion of the video lasting less than two minutes, including allegations that Zahid had met with Dr Mahathir before the latter became prime minister in 2018.
Zahid said such remarks by Dr Mahathir were also published through articles by other online news outlets.
Claiming that Dr Mahathir’s remarks were made with the intention to lower his reputation, Zahid claimed that the allegedly defamatory statements would be understood to mean that he was a dishonest and untrustworthy person who uses “shortcuts” to postpone or resolve his ongoing criminal trial.
Among other things, Zahid claimed Dr Mahathir’s remarks also carried the meaning that he had sought the prime minister’s help to interfere with, postpone or resolve the ongoing criminal trial, or to interfere with or stop investigations against him.
Zahid also claimed that he never met Dr Mahathir to discuss any court case or investigation by government agencies against himself before Dr Mahathir was appointed Malaysia’s seventh prime minister in May 2018.
“The plaintiff at all material times had complied with all court orders and the law during the course of hearing for the plaintiff’s criminal case,” Zahid said, referring to himself as the plaintiff in this defamation lawsuit while saying that his criminal trial at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur is still ongoing.
Zahid claimed that the innuendo in Dr Mahathir’s remarks was that he was unfit to be a leader and had no credibility as someone who had a high position as a former deputy prime minister.
Zahid also claimed that Dr Mahathir’s allegedly defamatory remarks were made to bring down his credibility as Umno president and Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman and as an individual with a good public image, further claiming that the remarks indirectly gave a negative image to BN which was contesting in the Johor state election.
In the lawsuit, Zahid is seeking compensation in the form of general, aggravated and exemplary damages, as well as a court order to direct Dr Mahathir to publish an unconditional written apology in a newspaper to be determined by Zahid and using terms to be decided by Zahid.
Zahid also sought for several permanent injunctions to direct Dr Mahathir to retract the allegedly defamatory and false statements, and to stop him from publishing or republishing these statements or making further similar statements against Zahid.
Zahid also sought for the court to order Dr Mahathir to remove or cause the removal of videos by news outlets that had carried the allegedly defamatory statements, and for Dr Mahathir to write to news outlets to remove news reports on those remarks.